The best PD I never went to… #couchCon

I didn’t go to a wonderful conference today. My wife is away on a school camp, so I thought I should make the most of being on my own to not go to a wonderful conference.



The conference I didn’t go to started with a relatively brief keynote by Chris Lehmann, the Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. It was really inspiring stuff. His passion for the kids we all teach is incredible and contagious. I came away from this keynote at the conference I didn’t attend with a real sense that the much needed change in our education system is within reach. Knowing that pioneers and visionaries like him and many more have gone before us gives me real hope that it is possible. He said a few things that really resonated with me, such as the story he shared about his students that built a bio-diesel generator that they released as a creative commons product for the third world. I got goosebumps when he said: “What if high school wasn’t just preparation for real life? What if we honoured the work of the kids and said high school is real life?” I find this kind of validation of the kids work so inspiring and much more meaningful than any test score! His comments about technology being ubiquitous were fantastic too.

So, after this keynote I didn’t see, I was excited about the other workshops and seminars that the day wouldn’t have in store for me. I’ve been really interested in gamification recently, so I was glad to see that the non-conference had a study group dedicated to Open Badges and Assessment, based on the work that’s being done by Mozilla and P2PU. The session started with a review of the documentation that’s been produced by Mozilla. I was thinking about applications just within my own high school context, but seeing the scope of the project Mozilla is undertaking was phenomenal. They have a plan for building an open badge standard to recognise learning from a whole range of sources that has been ignored by traditional qualification awards systems. It really is revolutionary and some in the group were considering this as a potential contender to replace traditional universities! I really love the range of ideas that I get exposed to when I don’t attend a conference. The group from this workshop will meet on a weekly basis now until the end of September, and that’s the other great thing about no going to these great conferences: the fabulous networks you build with interesting people.

Not going to a conference has a real downside, in that I was solely responsible for the catering…so lunch was disappointing.

In the second workshop we shared resources between interested parties. I picked up a great educational game teaching disaster preparedness which will make a fun little homework activity for my year 11s as they explore ideas about survival in English (I might get them to review the game or suggest alternate levels/scenarios…just thinking out loud). The same game will probably get shared with the people I’m working on KIOSC with, since it has a marginal focus on sustainability. There was also a wonderful teacher that shared a whole heap of SMART board resources, which will take me weeks to digest. I’m always happy to get more IWB resources, and I’m sure others at my school will appreciate them to.

Finally, the closing address summed up the incredible speed that the tech world is changing and highlighted the importance that education keeps up. It was drawing upon examples from Iowa, but in today’s global society, I could really see the importance of the message for my teaching in Australia, too.



Overall, the conference I didn’t go to has given me a lot to think about and I’m sure it will take a while for my to really understand the full implications for my teaching.

Next time you have a day free, I highly recommend not going to a conference.

Thanks to the following unwitting organisers of today’s couchCon, without you sharing such great content from the web recently, I might have gone outside today:

@martinlevins | @dajbelshaw | @russeltarr | @mimadisonklein | @rmbyrne

The best PD I never went to… #couchCon

Personal Learning Networks

I have become a very big fan of the notion of developing a PLN recently. A PLN is a Personal (or Professional) Learning Network. The idea is not particularly groundbreaking, since the notion of finding people with common interests to help you develop your skills and knowledge is not new. People have been doing this for years, whether that is in the guise of joining a club or evening class or simply by finding a professional mentor to help you improve in your chosen field.

#iwbnet10 example tweetsSo what’s the fuss about?

The thing that makes PLNs so attractive to me at the moment is just how easy it is to develop them. With the boom in social networking that has taken place over the last five years, professional networking has never been easier, or more productive. Simply stumbling across the right Twitter hashtag can lead to an astounding amount of high quality material.

I recently discovered the full potential of this a couple of weeks ago after attending the IWBnet conference in Queensland. Even though I had been using Twitter for over a year, it wasn’t until I started following the IWBnet10 hashtag that I was introduced to many other like-minded teachers. This led to me finding 10 new blogs to follow and my understanding of ways technology can be used to enhance education has increased exponentially.

I am really excited to see how my Personal Learning Network will continue to grow over the next couple of months, and what that will mean for my teaching.

What’s next?

The exciting thing for me at the moment is being able to see how other teachers are not only integrating ICT meaningfully into their own teaching, but also how they are slowly winning over the teachers in their schools. This for me is the big payoff. I’m all for improving my own teaching, but it is a much more fun journey to embark upon with my real-life colleagues. My hope is to experience a real revolution in the way the teachers at my school feel about their approach to teaching, and with the help and encouragement of my online PLN, that is beginning to to feel like a real possibility.

Personal Learning Networks